Accounting for Intangible Assets: Suggested Solutions

Barker, Richard; Lennard, Andrew; Penman, Stephen H.; Teixeira, Alan

Current accounting practice expenses many investments in intangible assets to the income statement, confusing earnings from current revenues with investments to gain future revenues. This has led to increasing calls to book those investments to the balance sheet. Drawing on the relevant research, this paper proposes solutions for the accounting for intangible assets that contrast with balance sheet recognition, and compares them to current practice and the IFRS standards that dictate practice. Key is the recognition that an accounting solution comes from a double-entry system which produces an income statement as well as a balance sheet, and that has features that both enable and limit the information that can be conveyed about the value in intangible assets. In this system, asset recognition in the balance sheet must consider the effect on measurement in the income statement, for the income statement conveys value added to investment on the balance sheet. A determining feature is uncertainty about investment outcome and how that affects the income statement, so our solutions center on accounting under uncertainty. Two other accounting features are added: There has to be an investment expenditure for balance sheet recognition and that expenditure must be separately identifiable from transactions. These features rather than the tangible-intangible asset dichotomy lead to the prescribed solutions.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Center for Excellence in Accounting and Security Analysis
Columbia Business School, Center for Excellence in Accounting and Security Analysis
Published Here
October 13, 2020